By Soumya Kulkarni, Regular ContributorDecember 1, 2015
image via thememoricoach.com
For centuries, humans have struggled to identify what it is that makes us different from the rest of the animal kingdom. Is it our ability to walk on two legs? No, many animals can do that, even the cute little dogs on YouTube. Is it our ability to talk? Not really, parrots can “talk. Recently, many people have attributed the human ability to tell stories as the differentiating factor.
Humans crave stories. Every aspect of our life is wound around tightly coiled narratives.
These stories build on each other- glorious layers that are never fully complete with just one perspective. I think it’s funny how easily we forget that we are often part of a bigger story ourselves. Every action we take will have bigger repercussions than any of us could imagine.
Last week, my school got the opportunity to watch “The Bullycide Project,” a nationally acclaimed play performed by a local theater group. The play discusses real life victims of suicide due to bullying, and some of the actors share their personal experiences with bullying. My favorite part of the show was at the end when the theater director asked people in the audience to share their stories. Many courageous people stood up, sharing their stories of struggle and triumph. It was a very enlightening experience, because many of these people sat in front of us in class, walked past every day in the hallways, or we them knew through mutual acquaintances. Yet, we were so oblivious to stories that made up so much of that person.
The presentation bled into other classes and lunches during the day and opened up channels to frank and honest conversation. It was amazing how much I learned about the people with whom I spend seven hours a day, 5 days a week.
Listening to the stories of others makes us more empathetic, more distinctively human.
It can be difficult at times to open yourself up to that kind of rawness, to make yourself vulnerable by exposing yourself to sorrow and pain that is not yours. Many people walked out of the auditorium that day, grumbling about how “It was a waste of time,” or “I had to miss a quiz for this.” I understand it gets tiresome to listen to the same state-recommended anti-bullying rhetoric year after year. But, the truth of the matter is that we have to confront difficult issues, issues that make us uncomfortable. By refusing to discuss these topics, we do a disservice to large portions of our society. And, somehow, we slowly erase their stories.
Have you taken the time to learn another's story? How can we better listen and engage with the stories around us? Tell us below!
Soumya is a high schooler from the Midwest. In addition to writing, she loves chess, reading good books, chocolate, tea, new cities, and Harry Potter. She hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams as she embarks on her own journeys. Find her at her personal blog, ifturquoisecouldtalk.blogspot.com or tweet her @soumkulkarni.
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